The opening song in my ward Sacrament meeting was Count Your Blessings. So I did. I am so grateful for family and friends and our life journey that we get to travel together. Verse 1 and 2 of Count Your Many Blessings...took my breath away and made me stop...then the 4th verse of the song started and I knew it was a message from the Lord that I needed.
"So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged; God is overall. Count your many blessings; Angels will attend. (Mom, Dad, Marcie and Tom) Help and comfort give you to your journey's end."
The past few days I've been in deep reflection. I have wept and felt anger and felt peace. This is what I know today...I have been taught for over 50 years to LOVE, love my family, my fellow man, everyone and that is what I have and continue to strive to do. I have been taught how to serve, to be positive, to be compassionate, to mourn, to respect, to uplift, to grieve, to care, to forgive, to learn by faith, to grow, to be a Mother and a Grandmother, to pray, to teach and to be taught, to receive , to give, to understand and to seek understanding, to find my Savior and to feel his love and the peace that comes from him. And SO much more.
I've tried to teach my children these same things and know that each of my children have a deep spiritual connection with their Savior and they have come to know Him in their own way.
ALL that cannot be taken away by a new guideline . It can't.
As I count my blessings, I feel peace that only my Savior can give me. That is what I will hold to today and tomorrow and going forward.
God is good.
Counting my blessings brought peace and perspective.
This is what I sent to my children after the NEW POLICY was announced for the LDS church regarding Gays in our congregations...
What a weekend of drama and love….
My friend Suzy Walker shared with me a letter she sent out to her family and it got me thinking I should send one out to each of you so you know of my love and my understanding of what's going on with the announcement and policy change for the LDS church.
This weekend has given me great cause to reflect on family. Our family. I love ALL of my children immensely, but this week has given me reason to reflect on my love for Truman and Landon and his sweet family. What a trying week this has been for them. For me. For Dad.
The Church recently confirmed some changes to its Handbook of Instructions provided to bishops and stake presidents. The Handbook prescribes doctrines, policies, and procedures for administering the Church and serving members. The changes are three-fold:
- Those who enter into a same-sex marriage are considered apostate, and will need to undergo Church discipline possibly resulting in disfellowshipment or excommunication;
- Local leaders should seriously consider Church discipline against members cohabitating in same-sex relationships but not married
- Minor children in same-sex households are not to be blessed in church nor baptized into the Church until they reach adulthood. At that point they must understand and accept the Church’s doctrine regarding same-sex acts and marriages in order to be baptized
At first, I will admit my confusion, anger and definite lack of understanding. What? Why? Particularly the children... I don't get it. It took away my hopes of blessings and baptisms for future and current grandchildren. I spent a couple of days rather angry and discouraged, and, poor Wayne, I even took it out on him. This is a similar pattern for me when I have had to deal with a difficult trial of some sort. I had to remind myself to do some research, and to 'search' for answers. I had to remove myself from the negativity of social media because I recognize that those expressions posted are "knee jerk" reactions and are often based on 'hearsay' and not facts. I needed to study it out for myself.
Today I cannot tell you that I fully understand, but, through some research and a tender mercy, I have found some perspective and peace.
These policy changes directly affect our family. That makes total acceptance tough at first. My heart keeps crying out, "Truman and Landon are my sons. They didn't choose to be gay. Somehow, someway, possibly genetics – who knows why?…. they have my heart and I am a mama dragon and will defend and love to the end. And…. It's not fair to my grandchildren!" So, how do I, as the mother/grandmother, deal with this?
Neal A Maxwell stated, "Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions..." That was back in 1976ish (?) This week was the first time I had to truly ponder that. I have, I will admit, halted between opinions.
Let me share a little of how I have found some peace. I hope that these points might be useful to you as you move forward. This isn't meant to change your minds….just to let you know what's going on with me.
· Parenting: As we have learned more about LGBT as a family, we are far ahead of the main body of the Church as far as being educated and understanding. Mainly, we have all realized that love is love. Truman is Truman. Landon is Landon. They are good and kind and a part of us and that is the truth. Their lives are grounded by an LDS upbringing in which ALL of us take part. My mother heart is happy when I ponder on what amazing men they are. And…. we are ever blessed that Alex is a good, loving, wise man and is a part of us as well.
Now for our next generation--Sophia and Andrew, our two oldest grandchildren….are totally affected by this. They will be spending some time with their mom going to an LDS ward on Sunday. This is going to be so confusing for them. Hopefully they will have insightful and caring primary teachers who don't belittle their life situation but only love. I pray for this. What's going to happen with Sophia's baptism? Will she want this? Will her mom insist on this? Will Alex and Landon want this? So many questions…but I'm sure exceptions can be made.
What if Truman adopts and becomes a father? That child will be part of our family and will be heir to all that that means. Eternity is a LONG time. Does 18 years make much of a dent in eternity? Not really. That’s one thought. That child or children will be exposed to the Gospel through his/her/their relationship with all of us. Tru, like Landon and Alex will teach through example and through love. They don't have to attend an LDS church service to do this. We can bless and continue to have father's blessings in our home….this thought helps my grandmother heart.
One thought that Suzy shared that I think is particularly valid is this….. She wrote, " I grew up in a home without the Gospel. I grew up being exposed to things I am grateful each of you did not have to endure. My parents exposed me to the church. That was good – but also very difficult and confusing! I remember sitting in the Bishop’s office as a teenager and just crying because I felt goodness in the Church but I could not change my parents. I remember being upset with a young women’s leader because she was teaching that Temple Marriage was what the Lord wanted, but in my heart it wasn’t fair that if I did get married in the temple that none of my family could be there. These are just a couple of examples, but there are many more. I remember the heartache, the dichotomy of good and good. My family was good. The Church was good. How was I supposed to choose?"
So, Suzy already understands what my grandchildren might encounter. My heart also recognizes that the Church understands what Truman's children might encounter. As hard and as matter-of-fact as that is, I can understand. So, if I put myself in the position of Truman’s child, being raised by an incredible dad that could not participate in church ordinances and such, my heart understands. I get it.
· Apostate: This part is / was the hardest for me. Such a harsh word. What does it mean? Well, it is simply a word used to describe any individual who is no longer living the principles of, has turned away from and / or no longer embraces the Church. It DOES NOT mean that a person is bad, evil or mean. At one point or another, I suppose we could all be called apostate on varying levels. Like the many times I lost my temper in frustration when my children were teens. Like the times I have chosen to travel on Sunday instead of attending my meetings. So, once I considered that an apostate can still believe the truthfulness of the Gospel but has chosen not to live by all of its principles, the sting of the word was softened. An apostate does not necessarily have to be one who is antagonistic against the church. Like I said, there are times when all of us could have been considered apostate for one reason or another.
What I want most to communicate to each of you, is that this change in policy is here, and I’m learning how to deal with it. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it may seem unfair to the children. No, I’m not positive I understand all of it. But, at least I can say that now I have quieted my heart, and done some pondering and I am finding peace. I Know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all will be made fair and right.
I had a sweet tender mercy on Sunday…the opening hymn was Count Your Blessings…and it was sung just for me. Every word touched my soul and I felt like God was speaking just to me. I cried when I thought of my Angels…Mom, Dad, Tom, Marcie, Grandma and Grandpa Butters…helping me through to my journey's end.. And, of course, my greatest blessings that I counted were all of YOU.
Here are the words:
- When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
I just keep thinking of our family anthem… "Love one another." We sing it and we mean it. Grandma Sheri always said in heaven she was pretty sure that THE one question that would be asked and we would be held accountable for was, "Did you love?"
Let me close by simply telling each of you how much I love you! As you can tell, I don’t have the answers, I just know what is true for me. I hope that each of you can take a step back from the ‘hype’ and seek for your own understanding and peace.
As a family, let’s pray for each other. WE NEED EACH OTHER!
I love you